by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
After just over a year in early access, Playwood Project’s strategy figurine-fest Wartile has taken the stage. Wearing a Viking’s skin and combining RTS with turn-based strategy elements, Wartile presents a distinctive new take on typical table-top strategy. You control a band of Viking warriors, undertaking adventures to mythical locations, garnering abilities and treasure, which you then use to purchase new equipment and heroes, expanding your retinue of Nordic knaves. Each of these followers adds a new layer to the strategy, whether they be an archer, capable of ranged combat, or a shaman, able to cast debilitating spells. The abilities also add an element of variety, allowing you to immobilize enemies, place traps, or summon undead warriors. These abilities also require a currency to cast, which you gain by defeating enemies, adding a further consideration to the combat.
The most non-typical part of Wartile is the central mechanic of cooldown-based strategy, basically meaning that every time you move, you must wait a few seconds before you can move again. This creates an experience that is neither turn-based nor real-time but has some of the qualities of both. But in terms of style, Wartile borrows heavily from table-top games, creating an experience that visually resembles a board-game. Each adventure takes place on a wonderfully detailed diorama of a mythical Norse location. You move your figurines through each of these levels, smashing obstacles, exploring caves and fighting enemies. But generally, the strategy of Wartile comes down to using terrain to bottleneck your enemy, or choosing your engagements, by forcing enemies to move to trapped tiles or to fight on your terms. The figurines automatically fight the closest enemy unless told otherwise, so in this sense, placement is everything. This moving/reacting in tandem with your enemies gives the combat a strong sense of rhythm.
SPUR OF THE MOMENT
The issues I had with Wartile when I previewed it feel mostly resolved. It seems like there are far more healing items and healing abilities are cheaper to cast. I still think the idea of having a battle currency that you use to cast abilities, which are randomly drawn from your deck, is convoluted. The randomness of these draws messes with combat preparation, but the inclusion of in-level save points that heal you, plus more healing items, has mostly negated this issue now. I also think the game lacks any real story or engaging characters, but I didn’t really mind as table-top is a fairly limited medium through which to tell a story. On the whole, I really appreciate what Wartile is trying to do. It would have been easier to make the game turn-based and I think the game might have been more popular if it was, but I personally appreciate the innovation.
As one of many strategy players who enjoys both turn-based and RTS I really support what Wartile is doing. Wartile’s strategy better reflects the reality of strategy; that you don’t have unlimited time to sit back and contemplate the minutiae of every action, often the most real strategy is spur of the moment, about reaction and improvisation. This is very much the realm that Wartile exists in. I also rarely see strategy games trying so hard to emulate board-games and I think this adds an almost stripped down/rustic feel to the gameplay. But Wartile also doesn’t go full-blown RTS, the cooldown periods still act as small turns in a way. With this in mind, Wartile could be the perfect game for turn-based strategy players looking to get into RTS, or even table-top players, looking to get into strategy video-games. Wartile is a solid addition to the genre, perhaps niche in terms of what it’s trying to do, but still certainly more innovative than most.
Wonderful table-top aesthetic, strategy innovation
Convoluted card system, lack of engaging characters